Pete Swanson interview for 06:00am

06:00am: How are you today?

P.S.: I'm good. It's January 2nd and I'm in Philaldelphia. It's a great city to celebrate New Years since the real celebration is at the Mummers parade on New Years Day. It's really an incredible and confusing event.

06:00am: Can you describe how your voice sounds like? If I understood correctly, there are some vocals in the work Man With Potential/Man with Garbage but they are not in the front, they kind of blend into the succession of sounds. When you use your voice/or other vocals in your work what is the place they usually have and why?

P.S.: Man With Potential does feature voice sounds, but not mine. There's a few tape loops of fragmented vocal sounds of other people, but it's nothing remotely resembling language going on there. The role these sounds play in the work is to have a more chaotic percussive element and more organic sounds. It's an easy trick to make abstract sounds seem more human.
Man With Garbage does feature my voice, which I think should be fairly obvious if you listen to the tracks again. All of those pieces feature some spontaneous singing. I don't really consider myself to be a fantastic singer, but I've been trying to mix the vocals up in the mix on the tracks that feature them. I've done a few acoustic guitar gigs in the last year or so and people told me that my singing was like Leonard Cohen, which I see as being very kind.
I haven't done any studio albums with vocals for years at this point. I'd like to do an album with prominently featured vocals, but I'm just never satisfied with where the vocals go in the studio, and I've been constantly frustrated by music writers wanting to write about the words as opposed to the sound. I've always used lyrics to shape the narrative of the album and used vocals to enhance the musicality of the work. Ultimately, I consider myself a musician and the voice can fill a needed role from time to time.

06:00am: The title Man With Potential/Man with Garbage could be read as sarcastic but it creates a mind game when seen along with the cover. Every day we get to deal with people and treat them and respond to whatever it is they address to us. How do you act upon relating to another? By seeing people as they appear to be or by seeing them as a set of their potentialities? That is, how do you usually take the time to deal with others? By facing what there is there in front of you at any given moment or by believing that the person in front of you should be considered as a set of her or his possibilities of becoming something else, constantly evolving and changing at any given moment?

P.S.: I've seen a lot of people make very drastic, very positive changes. It's fantastic to be reminded of what people are capable of when they act boldly, but this title is also associated with the negative connotations of that phrase. Essentially, the one with potential is not fully realized as being something established or whole. I've been in a state of transition my whole life and that fact is occasionally troubling.

06:00am: What do you think your music takes away from its listeners? What do you think it can possibly give them back?  How do you imagine what your music does to its listeners? I personally get sucked in by it in this situation that is like facing some raw utterly scary but smooth truth of despair and devastation, and as a return to that, I get addicted and want to return to re listen to it and be there again. Which is, I guess, a good after effect. So I experience it as a bad good thing. There are things in this music that you think they suck stuff out of listeners and things that are there to be given back as an overall feeling through this music?

P.S.: I always aim for the music I make to be enveloping and psychedelic. I want the listener to be overwhelmed and immersed in sound. Beyond that, I really have no idea what people will take away from my work. I've been told before that certain records are uplifting, others morose and I appreciate that diversity. There's so much going on in the music that the listener can hear whatever they want to hear in the recording and I believe that complexity is what fans of my work find compelling. I'm not trying to tell anyone how to experience life, but I am interested in posing questions.

06:00am: What is the event that gave rise to you taking a route towards socially engaged work (psychiatric nursing in particular) and what is the event that gave rise to you making music

P.S.: No particular events happened with either. Music was a bit more of an easy sell. I've been obsessed with pretty marginal music since I was 12 or 13 and my interests just become more and more questionable as time goes on.
I got into the whole mental health world as sort of a lesser of evil paths to sustain my music obsession. I got a job working at a home for mentally retarded sex offenders when I was 20 and haven't really looked back since then. I really figured out I loved that sort of work a few years ago while I was working at a transitional housing program for homeless, mentally-ill individuals. I've been working in the field for 10 years now and the work just feels like a good fit at this point.

06:00am: Certain creative procedures are about trying to translate the experience of the landscape. Is your music informed from external stimuli?

P.S.: Yes and no. My music is mainly informed by my own developing process. I've been working on systems for creating music for nearly twenty years and I'm still refining that process. I really consider the sound sources to be secondary to the way the sounds are processed and how they ultimately are presented in the context of the piece. I do often use constraints to determine a sound palette for a specific record that are informed by things I'm experiencing in my life. I have had a lot of friends making techno music in the last several years and I was going out dancing a lot leading up to recording MWP. I also record a lot of incidental sounds when I'm traveling and incorporate a lot of obscured environmental sounds in my work.

06:00am: We noted down some of the words that came up while listening to MWP: boiling down, dust, process, succession, heartbeat, bad beat, wash out, drowning, fluidity, disasters, rain, steam, insistence, anger. When you make music, which words do you use to name your sets of sounds or tracks in your mind, how do you call them to yourself before you complete them and give them a proper title?

P.S.: All of the art and titles I use have come from my life. I just collect odd phrases from conversations, books, movies, etc. Almost all of my artwork comes from trips I've taken or things I've stumbled onto and found compelling in my everyday life. I don't really spend a lot of time considering options. Generally the artwork and names of tracks become clear as all of the elements are collected.. I just sort of keep a list of phrases, potential photos for art and music files around and eventually the pieces all sort of fall together into one cohesive release. I wouldn't say it's entirely random, but I find the overall effect of the interplay of these elements in my work tends to be more interesting when they're less associated with the specific sounds of a specific piece and more about conveying an overall mood/frame of the narrative across the album's overall presentation. I always find people who write about my work are very interested in the language surrounding my work and all I can really say is that I treat the language the same way I treat the music.

06:00am: Can you tell us here again if techno music is an influence for your new album? How would you describe the sound of your music?

P.S.: I've been telling people that I think MWP is an extremely fractured, abstracted take on techno. I've referenced electronic dance music in a lot of my other work, but I think this album is the most heavily influenced by that world. That being said, I don't think this record is a break from my previous work or something that functions as a dance record.

06:00am: Do you like the Swans?

P.S.: I can't believe how rarely people ask me this. When I was 18, I came to New York by myself for the first time. I flew in to Long Island for some reason and took the LIRR in to Brooklyn. I sat down across from a middle aged woman on the train who promptly scoped me out and told me, “You better toughen up real quick or they'll eat you alive in the city.” This trip was when cassette walkmen were still not obsolete and I spent the entire trip walking around Manhattan playing a tape with “Filth” on one side and “Kollaps” by Einsterzende Neubauten on the other. I only really love “Filth” out of the Swans catalog.

06:00am: Have you ever lost your interest for music in general? If yes, why?

P.S.: Not really. Not since I started playing my own music at 14. I get overwhelmed with other demands in my life and I've gone through phases where I feel like I'm in a creative rut, but I'm always thinking about it, listening to it, playing it. It's an obsession of mine that's held for nearly two decades.

06:00am: What is fun for you?

P.S.: I'm pretty slammed with school so the most fun I've been having lately has been playing music. I also like yoga, dancing, sensory deprivation tanks, reading, etc.

06:00am: Which albums have you been listening to the most during 2011?

P.S.: Lately I've been going through everyone else's best of 2011 lists and checking out stuff I missed so.. aside from the stuff on my own list on Boomkat, I've recently become obsessed with Andy Stott, Sandwell District, Graham Lambkin “Amateur Doubles”, Matt Carlson “Particle Language”, Stare Case and I completely spaced on including Peaking Lights “936” since I thought I came out in 2010 for some reason.

06:00am: What is your favorite sound and why?

P.S.: There's a beach that's just about due west from my home town next to the lighthouse at Yaquina Head. The beach doesn't have any sand, but instead has fist-sized, black volcanic rocks that have been smoothed from the surf crashing on them repeatedly. When the sea breaks on the shore, the stones shift and produce this very dense chorus of stones clicking against each other.

06:00am: Tell us something that you have dreamed of.

P.S.: I don't dream. I don't remember my dreams and I don't really fantasize about having a different life other than the one I have.

06:00am: Which is your favorite city in the world and why?

P.S.: I've got a lot of traveling I'd like to get in still, but I've been fortunate to have been able to spend so much time in Portland, Oregon. As a city it's just hard to beat. It's very affordable, there's a ton of beautiful nature nearby, there's lots of great music, etc. I'm also very fond of Antwerp, Barcelona and Marfa, Texas.

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